Bag a Gift On a Budget

A reader writes:

I shop at yard sales and thrift stores for those old fashioned hand-embroidered pillowcases with the hand- made crocheted lace on the edges.  I take them home, wash them and then put a little spray starch on and iron them. I store them flat on a shelf in my linen chest of drawers.

When I need to wrap a gift, I take out one of the fancy pillowcases, put the gift inside and tie it with a nice ribbon.  The pillowcase becomes part of the gift and can be used for years.

(tip submitted by AS, MT)

Pennywise: What a clever way to wrap a gift and also a way to pass on a cherished antique from a grandparent or other special person in their lives.

Special Ribbons

When wrapping a gift for a school aged child, you can add value to the gift. Put a ribbon on the gift and leave lots of tails – then glue pennies, nickels or dimes to the ribbons lengths. The kids love to get the money to spend as they wish and it’s an easy way to help them learn how to count change – something many of our young folks do not know how to do.

(tip submitted by MB, NE)

Recycled Jar Flats Ornaments

These little ornaments are a neat way for the 4-H groups or school groups to make inexpensive gifts to use on their own or to sell as a fundraiser.

You will need:

  • Used canning jar flats
  • Old Christmas card or all-occasion cards
  • Glue, glitter, yarn, rick-rack, ribbons, little glue-on stars or any other small decorations you can think of. Some people use the smaller school pictures.

Cut the pictures from the cards or use photos – trim them to fit the jar flats and glue into place. Let the piece dry and then decorate the edges with any of the glitter, ribbons, etc.

Some people will put a small picture on each side of the flat. Glue on a piece of ribbon or yarn to use as a hanger.

These are a neat way for children to share their school pictures with grandparents who live away as they can watch the child grow from year to year.

(tip submitted by CG, ND)

Family Gift Ideas On a Budget

Shopping for those family members who literally have everything can be a hassle – especially for those of us on tight budgets. Here are some ideas that would work very nicely.

For college students: A plastic storage container filled with all sorts of snack items (bought on sale over time) or homemade. The container can be used for other things once the goodies are eaten. You could include a hand written gift certificate for a monthly package of the same items.

For a crafty child, a “create a critter” box filled with assorted colors of play dough – either store bought or home-made, an old garlic press, some plastic eyes, some yarn or embroidery floss (for hair), some scraps of fleece fabric for fur (to create some kind of animal)

Think of other items that would work to create a critter and let the kids get creative!

(tip submitted by DH, MN)

Dustpan Cookies

This clever gift idea was sent to me years ago by a friend, and I absolutely loved it. So did everyone I gave it to!

Make up a batch of your favorite cookies. They could be oatmeal-raisin, chocolate chip or something you only make at Christmas (perhaps decorated).

Then you will need to buy a brand new dustpan. I got one for $2.49 at our local hardware store and it’s even brightly colored.

Put all but two of the cookies in the dustpan and arrange them to suit yourself. Next, take the last two cookies and smash them up. Sprinkle the ‘cookie dust’ over the top of the whole cookies.

Wrap the whole shebang in some of that pretty plastic wrap that is readily available this time of year and put a big bow on the handle of the dustpan.

Attach the following poem:

Dear (fill in the name):

I was in a hurry,

Cause time was running out.

I’d baked a batch of cookies for you,

And when I turned about,

I saw they’d fallen on the floor.

It made me want to shout.

How could this happen at this time?

When time was running out.

I couldn’t throw them in the trash

Whatever could I do?

I quickly swept them in this pan.

And rushed it right to you!

Just think of all the people that would get a chuckle out of this one – a fun gift and not too terribly expensive.

Wash Your Light Fixtures

A reader writes: I take my light fixtures down every fall when I’m doing my deep cleaning. I used to put them in the sink and hand wash them, but then my daughter suggested that I put them in the dishwasher instead. I’ve never used the machine for anything but dishes but I gave it a try anyway. It worked beautifully and I was able to wash more than one fixture at a time. In fact, I filled the whole machine with the light fixtures and got them done all at once. It sure made the job a lot easier!

(tip submitted by KM, WI)

Pennywise: We have had folks send in hints to wash the furnace ducts covers in the dishwasher as well. They are usually held in place by a couple of screws and don’t take too long to clean up. It might be a good time to check the ductwork anyway. Those who have little ones might find a stray toy or two that got poked down the vent. Crayons are the worst – they can melt and make a grand mess.